“When we are born, we are conscious only of ourselves, we are the universe. We perceive little other than our basic needs, and if these needs are met, we are content. As our consciousness expands, we become aware of a world outside ourselves.
We discover that there are people, places, and things around us and that they can also fulfil our needs. We learn to want and choose. We are the centre of a growing universe and expect to be provided with the things we need and want. Our source of contentment shifts from basic needs miraculously met to the fulfilment of our desires.”
– The Triangle of Self (Obsession: Narcotics Anonymous)
Find Freedom in Purpose
The Selfish Core of Addiction
Self-centeredness has been widely touted as one of the main characteristics of individuals who are living with addictions.
This claim is widely acknowledged by those in long term recovery.
Many stories shared in meetings will contain examples where self-centeredness was prevalent during active addiction.
In recovery, we learn that to have a meaningful long-term recovery, we must move away from our old behaviours. This means we must become less self-centred and more focussed on others.
But first, we need to understand what it means to be self-centred and what effects it has on those in proximity to us. We need to find out how we act and why we are self- centred.
Like many behavioural changes, we need to explore how behaviour leads individuals in addiction and recovery to be isolated and at risk of relapse.
When a person is addicted to a substance or behaviour, that need overwhelms everything, including responsibilities and relationships.
Active addiction breeds selfishness and self-centeredness. Narcissism, egocentric, self-absorbed, self- serving, and selfishness are all characteristics of addiction.
This describes the way the individuals act when their needs, desires and wishes are the main priority and sole focus.
This type of behaviour leaves little space for the rest of the world and certainly without meaningful consideration.
In fact, it could be argued that the only time an addict considers someone else, is whe
n it somehow results in fulfilling their own aim.
This can be found in manipulative techniques used by the individual to continue what they genuinely wish to do – drink, drug, or gamble freely without immediate consequence.
This is the very foundation upon which a loved one’s feeling of being used and abused is built.
In the self-centeredness of addiction, there is no mutual support as is usually found in healthy relationships.
Most addicts and alcoholics initially do not believe they are self-centred or self-involved.
If you ask, they will be happy to tell you about all the reasons they have to support their drinking, behaviours or use of drugs.
The reasons are typically the same and ultimately include statements like “you would use too if you were me”, or “no one has the problems in life that I have”.
The good news is that over time, and in recovery, the individual can change. With the right support and willingness, they become more aware and sensitive to others.
One of the promises of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) is: Self-seeking will slip away. The tunnel vision of focusing only on oneself and drinking usually begins to fade as people work the steps.
How a 12-Step Program Will Set You Free
One of the four cornerstones of a 12-step program is service. This, in its most simple form, can be found in one addict or alcoholic, helping another addict or alcoholic.
The fellowship aspect of recovery is one of the strongest attributes of a successful recovery program.
People who were once only concerned with their own thoughts and needs begin to be open and freely give their time and support to others battling the same addictions.
Sponsors are individuals who are themselves in recovery. They have found new freedom through being a guide through another’s recovery journey.
It is a great honour to be asked to sponsor an individual. It gives meaning to our journey and can build bonds that some describe as deeper than friendship.
Former addicts and alcoholics discover that an exciting new world opens when the focus is taken off themselves and placed on another who needs help.
Purpose becomes a driving force for recovery and helping the newest member and carrying the message of recovery the main aim.
Where addicts and alcoholics were once lonely and self-absorbed, in recovery and fellowship, their world is now filled with great and significant relationships that will stand the test of time.
They care about others, and others care about them.
This is a catalyst for further acts of selflessness. Having an attitude of service need not be solely reserved for the rooms of anonymous fellowships.
Many will stretch their service into the families and wider society. Through the amends process of the 12 steps, it is not unusual for individuals to make sure their actions are born for selflessness.
There are creative ways that we make amends to the communities we took so freely from.
Individuals in recovery often give their time to charities and meaningful causes as a way of fulfilling amends.
Those in recovery find that one of the ways out of addiction is to shift their focus from themselves to others.
This also leads to meaningful connections within society that serves to build recovery capital as relationships, friendships and meaning are the by-products of the individual’s behaviour.
While our self-centredness served only to drive others away and ultimately ended in isolation, selflessness will bring others closer and result in deep connections.
To fulfil this promise of recovery, remember to focus on others and not on yourself. You are not the answer.